Over two days, QuickBooks Connect brought the best of accounting technology together for the benefit of financial professionals and their small business clients.
The event was split in two, with the first day devoted to accountants and bookkeepers and the second to small businesses. However, with a range of inspiring and successful entrepreneurs present including Alan Sugar and Mary Portas, the focus was always on helping businesses thrive.
Here are three key takeaways we took from an exciting two days.
1. Real-time data is essential
Financial visibility was a key theme at this year’s event. While accountants often talk about “real-time information”, the tangible reality of this is often left unsaid.
Leave it to Alan Sugar to put it simply and effectively when he said, “I know where every bolt, nut and screw is in my company.”
The fact is that software tools have reached a point where it has never been easier to track your business health. OCR data extraction technology, automatic invoice forwarding, instantly visible cloud accounting, bank feeds – all of these and more allow business owners to track their financial data easily and, more importantly, quickly.
The old fashioned bookkeeping systems that only provide a historic view of your business last year are just not fit for purpose in today’s fast-moving economy. To quote Lord Sugar again, “You MUST have good management accounts if you are in business!”
All the accountants and bookkeepers in the room clapped at that but how do you make those accounts as useful as possible?
One option is, Receipt Bank’s Practice Platform. This lets you track the average delay between your clients receiving an invoice and submitting it to be entered into their books. Tracking and improving metrics like these is key to offering more useful advice to your clients, and helping them succeed.
2. Hiring is a key business skill
Both James Caan and Mary Portas spoke about the importance of having the right people on your team and keeping them happy. In Portas’s words, you should look for a team of “radiators” not “drains”.
In a client facing business like accounting, those with whom your clients interact make all the difference. Receipt Bank Partner Mike Melling, who runs a group of successful Tax Assist practices, recently described the positive effect that technology has on keeping his team happy, and radiating
“One of the accounting trends that the industry faces is finding good people, including skilled, qualified bookkeepers. It’s a customer facing business, so you need people who can build relationships with clients, whether that’s face-to-face or on the phone. Automating the manual work means you can move staff with energy and passion up the chain and have them interpreting the numbers and helping the clients, instead of chasing them.”
Staff are looking to do work that makes a difference to clients, and they want to learn. This means offering real training and development opportunities for ambitious staff, and being flexible with working practices.
3. Your focus should always be on your clients
One of the most popular talks, both on social media and on the ground, was Alex Davis on “How to beat the rise of the robots”. The answer, as it happens, was surprisingly simple – focus on the things that robots can’t do.
Even as the list of tasks that can be done by AI grows, businesses are run by people, not robots. And your clients need advice that understands that. If you try and focus on what Davis referred to as, “High volume, repetitive and predictable tasks – you will lose.”
Machine are very good at those tasks, and automating them is what actually gives you the time to advise your clients properly, and the data to do it properly. Our global study recently found that a 30% increase in automation levels in a practice halved the amount of time it took for items to be published to the cloud.
Tools like Receipt Bank give you the time to look past the numbers, and offer advice that can be the driving force behind your clients’ success. So leave the robots to what they’re good at, and focus on helping your clients as only you can.
Thank you to Intuit for hosting such an illuminating two days, and to all the other add-ons who are working to make this such an exciting time for accountants and bookkeepers.